While no one can guarantee success on any given project, following tried and true steps plus solid project experience can help you get as close to possible for guaranteed success. There are just too many risks, too many variables to guarantee success…differences from project to project and organization to organization. But we also know that following repeatable actions and processes on a regular basis that have worked in the past – your proven ‘best practices’ if you will – do provide you with the best chance of regular project success.
Success vs. failure
What is project success? How is it defined? Does it differ from project to project or customer to customer? Certainly, there are varying degrees of project success and failure, right?
Some ways you would know, without question, that your project has experienced failure to some degree are…
- Customer satisfaction is very low
- The project was canceled before deployment
- Budget overrun is a major issue
- Requirements are changing well into deep phases of the project
- Project team members – or the project manager – have been replaced due to leadership or performance issues
- The timeline has shifted out of control
Some ways you know that the project can generally be considered a success…
- Customer satisfaction is high
- The customer has initiated change orders requesting more work
- Major project milestones and deliverables are being approved without delays
- The project budget is on target
- Project milestones and deliverable deadlines have been regularly met
- Executive management is getting positive feedback from the customer
10 keys to success
I’d like to present my own personal 10 keys for achieving regular project success. As you read through these, I encourage you to think about your own processes and share your thoughts on what your ten steps or series of steps might be that you know work well for you or others in your organization.
Practice excellent and efficient communication. This is Job One for the project manager and team and may be the single most important ingredient to project success. Excellent communication of priorities and expectations to delivery team members will increase their understanding of what’s expected of them and increase their likelihood of on time task completion.
Have a strong, centralized PMO. A strong PMO allows for the utilization of knowledge sharing and post-project lessons learned sessions. Staff it with a good PMO Director as leader and focus on experienced PMs, not just certified PMs.
Manage the schedule with an iron fist. Manage the schedule tightly and the best way to keep it on track is to make sure everyone knows it and what’s expected of them. Never let it get too far out of date.
Manage scope just as tightly. Manage all change closely – scope, potential risks, change orders. Scope creep is ok if it’s covered by a change order. Then it’s not negatively impacting the schedule and the budget. Track, track, and track some more.
Co-manage with the customer. A cohesive, co-management situation with the project customer organization with fast dissemination of any alert or critical information keeps the customer engaged and informed. Always be upfront and honest with the customer – it’s their money and it’s their project you’re managing.
Go with repeatable PM practices. Reusable and repeatable processes and templates for planning, Mindmapping and project delivery are key to building a solid PMO that will help ensure ongoing project successes. Without these you’re basing regular project success on luck or chance and that won’t fly.
Deliver as expected. Consistent delivery of expected material and information – status reports, updated project budget status, issues/risks lists – makes for a very satisfied customer.
Engage in frequent communication with all stakeholders. Frequent formal and adhoc communications – delivery team calls, customer status calls, email alerts and updates – keeps everyone equally engaged.
Find and retain the right resources. Retention of skilled and necessary project resources is critical. Figure out the right skill set, get the resources, and fight like crazy to keep them when other critical projects come calling.
Keep exec management informed and engaged. Invite senior management to a customer meeting. Be sure to include them on critical project status information – or possibly every status report. What they don’t want, they won’t look at. But they’ll always have the chance to be informed and they’ll remember your project – so you can use them to knock down a roadblock, if necessary.
No long list of elements or ingredients can ever guarantee project success – no matter how closely it is followed. Bumps will happen, projects vary, risks happen, issues arise and things will hit the project that you never imagined could happen. But I’ve found that by sticking to the 10 key concepts detailed in this article, I’ve usually given myself and my team a good chance at achieving project success on a regular basis.
What about our readers? As you read through these, what other items would you add to the list that work best for you? What things on this list do you not agree with?